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Leinster Rugby submit plans to assess use of rapid antigen testing for safe return of fans to the RDS

The capacity for this proof of concept match will be capped at 2,000 supporters.

A general view of the RDS.
A general view of the RDS.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

LEINSTER RUGBY HAVE confirmed they have submitted a proposal to the Irish government to assess the use of rapid antigen testing for the safe return of spectators to the RDS.

Part of a statement issued by the province this morning read: “Leinster Rugby has this morning announced the submission of detailed plans to Government for a proof of concept test event, to assess the use of rapid antigen testing as a solution for the safe return of spectators to matches at the RDS Arena.

“With matches in the Guinness PRO14 Rainbow Cup scheduled for the coming weeks, a trial match could take place as early as next month, May 2021.”

The proposal, which has IRFU approval and is a direct response to the Government’s Rapid Testing Group’s recommendation to immediately implement antigen trial events, was submitted to the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport & Media on 9 April.

According to Leinster Rugby, the plans include the following details.

  • Leinster Rugby would host a match where a pilot scheme for rapid antigen testing to detect COVID-19 would be trialled with a limited number of 2m socially distant spectators.
  • Pre-match antigen testing would take place by appointment and would be on site at the RDS.
  • The chosen rapid antigen testing system is EU approved and can successfully detect Covid-19 and all variants of concern.
  • The antigen tests would complement existing Covid-19 guidelines already in place at the RDS Arena for staff and teams.
  • The capacity for this proof of concept match at the RDS Arena will be capped at 2,000 spectators, just 11% of normal match-day capacity.

The statement added: “Leinster Rugby Official Members will be offered an opportunity, by ballot, to purchase a pair of tickets and each attending pair of spectators must come from the same household or Covid-19 bubble.

“The antigen testing centre would open on match day from 7.00am, with testing by appointment only through a secure mobile App. Originating from Germany, the rapid antigen testing system chosen to be deployed is on the EU approved list of antigen tests and can successfully detect Covid-19 and all variants of concern.

“The secure mobile App and related testing technologies for this proof of concept event are also approved by the UK Government and will be used for multiple large sporting events in the UK over the coming weeks as the UK further lifts Covid-19 restrictions.

“Access to the RDS Arena to attend the match will be on the basis of each spectator receiving a negative antigen test result.

“Spectators, who have received a negative result, will be segregated into four separate RDS Arena zones of 500 people.

“Each zone will have their own entry and exit points and facilities. Seating will be on the basis of two metres social distancing between each pair and wearing of face masks will be compulsory.

“Any spectator in receipt of a positive antigen result, a Covid-19 PCR test will be organised for them either at the RDS or using the current HSE testing system. That spectator and their companion will not be permitted entry to the match.”

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Meanwhile, Virgin Media News reports that it is expected that elite athletes are to be given an exemption from mandatory hotel quarantine.

This would allow Leinster to travel to La Rochelle, and would ease fears expressed about the Irish Open.

A government spokesperson said talk and engagement between the Department of Health and the Department of Sport to develop options to facilitate sporting activity involving travel to and from countries on the mandatory quarantine list is ongoing today.

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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